Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Lightning kills 323 Reindeer in Norwegian national park.

A total of 323 Reindeer have been killed by a lightning strike during a thunder storm on the Hardanangervidda National Park on Friday 26 August 2016, according to the Norwegian Environment Agency. The Reindeer migrate across the park, which is a mountainous plateau, at this time of year, and are believed to have huddled together during the storm, an action which helps to protect the younger members of the herd (which included 70 calves) from the worst of the elements, but which makes them particularly vulnerable to (rare) lightning strikes.

Reindeer killed by lightning on the Hardangervidda Plateau on 26 August 2016. Håvard Kjøntvedt/Norwegian Environment Agency.

Thunderstorms occur when warm, moist bodies of air encounter cooler, drier air packages. The warm air rises over the cooler air until it rises above its dew point (the point where it cools to far to retain its water content as vapor), and the water precipitates out, falling as rain, sleet or hail.

Warm moist air passing over the surface of the Earth acts as an electrical generator, creating a negative charge in the cloud tops and a positive charge at the ground (or occasionally in a second cloud layer). The atmosphere acts as an electrical insulator, allowing this potential to build up, until water begins to precipitate out. This allows a channel of ionized air to form, carrying a current between the clouds and the ground, which we perceive as lightning.

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